RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - When form, motivation or confidence threaten to wane, United States archer Jake Kaminski takes comfort from a two-word reminder inked on the back of his left hand.
“I am,” a simple but open-ended affirmation, is a permanent reminder for the dual silver medalist to believe in himself as he slogs away at the training range or raises his bow for a clutch shot during competition.
The 27-year-old took the second of his team silvers at the Rio Olympics on Saturday after the Americans were blown away by an astonishing performance from the South Koreans in the final.
Having lost out on gold to Italy in the same event four years ago in London, it was another bitter-sweet day for Kaminski and team mate Brady Ellison who will both compete in the individual events this week.
However, Kaminski could at least console himself that the Americans shot well at the Sambodromo against South Korea whereas he and Ellison regretted a golden chance missed in London.
“The feeling is definitely totally different,” the dual Olympian told Reuters.
“It’s a lot better this time around. This time I feel we won the silver as opposed to losing the gold.
“There really was nothing that any other team in the world could come close to matching. They had the wind or the lack of wind with them.”
The silver was consolation after a tumultuous period last year for Kaminski, who had to cope with the death of his beloved step-sister from brain cancer and the breakdown of his marriage to a former fellow archer.
The twin setbacks made it hard to stay on target at the range and Kaminski was dropped from the national team before winning back his place at Olympic trials.
For a discipline requiring calm, stamina and fierce concentration, archers can be intense individuals.
Kaminski is among the sport’s most passionate exponents, having had his first taste of archery at the age of five when his father gave him a bow won at a gun-club raffle.
His silver medal at London helped him build a business out of the sport in his home base in Florida and he developed an app to help archers tune their gear.
Few other American archers have the fortune to do what they love full-time, unlike the national team members in ultra-competitive South Korea, who enjoy lavish sponsorship from a local car-maker.
“Fortunately I do make a living off archery,” he said. “I would say that the majority don’t. But even I have to work hard.”
Kaminski rated his partnership with Ellison and 21-year-old Olympic debutant Zach Garrison the strongest U.S. team he had been a part of in nearly a decade at the top.
The three forged a tight bond on the way to the silver.
Ironically, they may well end up tearing each other apart in the individual event.
Their scores in Friday’s ranking round condemned all three to shooting in the same quarter of the draw.
Should Kaminski get past local hope Marcus D’Almeida and Ellison beat Libya’s Ali Elghrari, the American pair would face off in the second round.
Garrett would be a potential third-round match-up.
“In some aspects it’s a bummer but in others it’s not,” said Kaminski.
“If everything goes well, one of us should be able to get through to the last eight and then there’s a very good chance for the last four and medal contention.
“There is always a silver lining to everything.”